Specimen Mountain


Specimen Mountain (12,482 feet) is an extinct volcano on the western slope of Rocky Mountain National Park.Photo by Richard F. Fleck


In my ranger days, it was my duty

to lead a group of ten or twelve

straight up the slopes of volcanic

Specimen Mountain above Milner Pass.

Once through the spruce-fir forest

where a sleek black bear feasted

on a wild and dewy strawberry or two,

we entered the Krummholz zone with

tiny trees as old as forest giants below,

and as we chatted, each one trekked at

his own pace onto the tundra green with

brisk winds that helped push us up to the

pumice-stoned saddle where we could view

that ancient crater halved by glacial ice

ten thousand years ago when lava bubbled.

Onward we scampered in gusty winds to

the summit where we peered deep down

to the “Little Yellowstone” far below,

carved by the Rio Colorado through

yellowish-red lava cliffs, dotted with

flocks of bighorn sheep finding their salt.

Coffee in hand, we all took in the distant

but clear Mosquito and Gore Ranges.

Slowly descending steep stony slopes

we entered needled forests once again.

Alas, we stood not too far from our cars,

and miles away from our mountain high

when it came time to say our goodbyes.